Homeschooling moms weigh in on why the new way works, and why it doesn’t
When Lynnanne Verge started working as a student assistant, she never imagined the kids she’d be assisting would be her own.
But now, the Paradise, N.L. mother finds herself settling in for her second year of homeschooling with her twins Grayson and Scarlet, 9.
“I almost can’t see us not doing it,” she said.
Verge opted for at-home instruction out of concern her daughter, who has a rare connective tissue disease, might be exposed to COVID-19 in the school environment.
Verge wasn’t the only parent to make a switch to homeschooling during the pandemic. Data from the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) shows some 600 students registered to homeschool in the fall of 2020—more than double the previous year’s number. And while that figure plunged back down to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, some parents aren’t looking back.
“I really like the connection that I’m finding,” Verge said from her home in Paradise. “[I like being] the one who is instilling what they learn and what they’re seeing every day.”
Verge, who follows the province’s homeschooling curriculum, said the family’s new routine affords more flexibility.
“Sometimes I let them pick the subjects,” she said. “Other days I’m like, ‘Well, we’ve got to do math whether you like it or not.”
Verge said her curriculum also incorporates more of the kids’ special interests, like music, as well as regular outings with kids of different ages—a benefit Verge said the grade school system does not offer.
“I find the integration beautiful,” she said.
Interacting with other kids also helps offset the one feature of homeschooling Verge said causes her concern.“They’re always in each others’ space,” she said.
However, the ample alone time has also strengthened the kids’ bond, Verge said. And that’s not the only benefit she’s seen.
Having worked with children who deal with challenges such as autism, Verge said she knows first hand the toll they can take on a teacher.
“Not that public school isn’t wonderful,” Verge said, “but I know they don’t have the time to put the extra oomph into each individual child.”
That “extra oomph,” Verge said, is exactly what her kids are getting at home.
“Even if they have a particular problem and I know it can’t get addressed I’m like, ‘That’s OK,’ because we’re working on our own time, and I get can set lesson plans up,” she said. “I find they’re getting stronger and stronger without even knowing it.”
‘It wasn’t our first choice’
Like Verge, Lauren Heggison started homeschooling her six-year-old son Max in the fall of 2020.
“It wasn’t out first choice,” says Heggison, originally from Ottawa and living in Port de Grave with her husband and three kids. “It wasn’t how we thought things were going to go when he first had kids.”
Heggison, who has taught in the K-12 system, began homeschooling last year when Max reached Kindergarten age and couldn’t attend school due to his severe allergies.
Heggison uses a hybrid approach—half the day at home, the other half at school for music, library and gym class—which she said gets Max the socialization he needs, without overwhelming him.
“So for him going to school is very fun,” Heggison said, “and he’s come out of his shell just by being there for that fun stuff.”
While Heggison doesn’t plan on homeschooling longterm, she said her hybrid approach is perfectly suited to Max’s needs.
“The fact that we’re easing him into school really slowly is just excellent for him,” she said. “It’s kind of been a really nice easy transition for him.”
Heggison also said the main benefit of homeschooling—”the ability to be able to teach to the student—” is one the school system simply can’t provide.
“I know if he doesn’t get something the day before then we can come back and work on it and we’re not wasting everybody else’s time. We just go at his own pace. If he’s doing really well, well then we can skip over something,” she said.
“You often hear, ‘Well, I’ve got 28 students in my class. I can’t just do this for this one kid.’ Well,” she said, “I can for this kid.”